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Lewes, Delaware
Jim's Towing Service
September 5, 2006     Cape Gazette
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September 5, 2006

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24 - CAPE GAZETTE - Tuesday, September 5 - Thursday, September 7, 2006 Short of breath? Symptom can indicate serious problem Q.: My wife has complained of being short of breath while shop- ping in the mall. She says it's just a sign of age, but I'm concerned about her. A.: The likelihood of suffering shortness of breath or dyspnea (disp-nee-ah) becomes greater the older we get. As we age, our air passages get smaller, chest mus- cles weaken and our lungs become less flexible. These changes reduce our air flow. Dyspnea should happen rarely to healthy people. It can be brought on by exhaustive exer- tion, high altitude and extreme temperatures. Otherwise, short- ness of breath is commonly a sign of a medical problem. So your wife should get this symptom checked bya doctor immediately. Dyspnea is associated with the major breathing disorders that can develop in seniors. These disor- HEALTHY GEEZER Fred Cicetti ders are chronic obstructive pul- monary disease (COPD), asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, pul- monary fibrosis,, pulmonary thromboembolism and aspiration. COPD in v, oivcs difficulty in exhaling. Emphysema and chron- ic bronchitis are COPDs. Emphysema makes the small air spaces in the lungs collapse. Bronchitis is inflammation of the airways. Most asthma is caused by aller- gies to airborne particles such as dust and mold. The airways become inflamed, which causes them to spasm. Unlike COPD, asthma is reversible. Diagnosing conditions in sen- iors can be challenging, because asthma in older people is often difficult to distinguish from emphysema and chronic bronchi- tis. In addition, many seniors have both emphysema and chron- ic bronchitis. Obstructive sleep apnea is com- mon in older adults. People with sleep apnea stop breathing for as long as 30 seconds at a time. These interruptions can happen hundreds of times a night. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax, narrowing your i i: Fit Fest set for Sept. 9 at Del Tech Fit Fast will be from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 9, at Delaware Technical & Community College in Georgetown. The free, family oriented health and fitness event underwritten by grant from Carl M. Freeman Foundation. Professional staff from Bayhealth Medical Center, Beebe Medical Center and Nanticoke Health Services will do personal adult health screenings for blood pres- sure, cholesterol, glucose and bone density. Fit Fast includes fitness activi- ties for children and adults; health exhibits and information available on health-related topics. There will also be prizes, awards, free- bies and food available for pur- chase. airway and cutting off your breathing. In pulmonary fibrosis, the lung's air sacs become filled with scar tissue. The damage is perma- nent. Pulmonary fibrosis usually begins in your 40s or 50s but can develop at any age. Pulmonary thromboembolism is a life-endangering blockage of a blood vessel by a blood clot that travels - often from the legs - to the lung and damages tissue. Pulmonary thromboembolism is most common after age 65. When something from your mouth goes down the wrong pipe, you have aspiration. Aspiration is inhaling food particles, liquids or bacteria. If the amount of aspirat- ed material exceeds the ability of the immune system to handle it, you can get a serious lung infec- tion. Symptom of shortness of breath can be caused by a variety of abnormalities in organs other than the lungs. When the heart fails, it loses its ability pump blood. This elevates pressure in the blood vessels around the lung. Sometimes fluid collects in the lungs and interferes with breathing, causing shortness of breath, especially when a per- son is lying down. A low red-blood-cell count causes dyspnea because the red cells carry oxygen. When their number is extremely low, your body doesn't get enough oxygen. In addition, a high thyroid level," shock, systemic infection, kidney or chronic liver problems, stroke, nerve and muscle disorders, and anxiety can bring on dyspnea. The following are some symp- toms that indicate a medical con- dition: shortness of breath at rest, with exercise, when lying down or upon exposure to allergens. In addition, you may have a problem if shortness of breath is accompa- nied by chest pain or discomfort, arm pain, jaw pain, neck pain, swelling in the ankles and feet, fluid weight gain or unintentional weight loss with reduced appetite, unusual fatigue, sweating, yellow or green phlegm," blood in spit, fever, wheezing, persistent cough, blue lips or fingertips, fainting. Fred Cicetti, a first-class geezer over 60 who writes a health col- umn for senior citizens. 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